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Leaving New Buffalo Commune by Arthur Kopecky Follow-up book to New Buffalo: Journals from .a Taos Commune. Both are based on the author’s journals about life at one of the most famous communes of the “back to the land” era. UNMPRESS.COM 800.249.7737 campaign contributors and the lobbyists who work for them. Opponents can and do make similar accusations against her. Since taking office, Strayhorn has received more than $2 million from law firms with business before the comptroller’s office; those firms have received more than $461 million in favorable tax decisions. In 2005, the state auditor released a report showing 3,656 favorable tax settlements within one year of related Strayhorn contributions. The state audit report levels no accusations against Strayhorn, but recommends that elected officials be barred from accepting contributions from entities with business before their offices. Perry’s camp calls the audit proof of corruption. “Every time Carole Strayhorn gets caught with her hand in the cookie jar, she first denies that it’s her hand, then she denies the existence of a cookie jar, and finally she attacks you for being against cookies,” says Perry spokesman Robert Black. The comptroller’s office has given her a terrific vantage point from which to criticize Perry’s every turn, an opportunity she has seldom let pass. Strayhorn lambasted the governor for ratifying an unbalanced state budget during a $10 billion shortfall in 2004. She attacked his messy handling of school finance, which she says failed to provide enough money for schools while leaving taxpayers without the property tax relief Perry promised. She’s criticized everything from proposed sales-tax increases to an inadequate state foster care-system and failure to institute minimum life sentences for sex offenders. Some in the Bell campaign joke that they should count Strayhorn as an independent expenditure for all the work she does against the governor. It’s easy to criticize Perry, and Texas progressives have been grateful to have someone in high-level office willing to do it. Unfortunately, it’s easier to criticize than to improve. Strayhorn touts what she calls “Strayhorn Solutions” on education, health care, and border security. In broadest outlines, they are the sanest kind of fiscally conservative rhetoricit’s cheaper to educate than to imprison, cheaper to insure our children than to treat them in the emergency rooms when they are gravely illbut beyond that there is little that is a threat to the status quo. Like every other candidate, she supports a staterun video lottery as a source of revenue for public schools, and would add to that $1 of additional tax on cigarettes. Most economists warn that sin taxes are a poor source of long-term funding, since for every dollar extra the sin costs, a certain number of people will just stop sinning. Like most conservatives, she seems convinced that cutting wasteful spending in schools will account for the rest of the money required. Lacking dramatic, coherent solutions to the problems she has been decrying for the last five years, Strayhorn is left pitching herself to two different constituencies: the anti-Perry faction that rallies around negative attacks on Perry, and women and moderates who constitute a softer “grandma” faction. With 30 days until the election, Strayhorn had raised almost $14 million in campaign funds and had $5 million left to spend. That money will allow her to fill the public airwaves with both versions of herself through Election Day. Emily Pyle is a writer living in Austin. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 3, 2006